Derry’s police chief has said there could have been “mass murder” if the PSNI had not intercepted a van containing four live mortar bombs in the city on Sunday evening.
PSNI Chief Superintendent Stephen Cargin was speaking hours after the discovery of the devices in a Citroen Berlingo van on the Letterkenny Road at 8.15pm on Sunday.
Three arrests were made in connection with the incident.
At a press conference this morning, CS Cargin said the devices were live “ready to go” in mortar tubes and added that the most likely target was one of the city’s PSNI stations.
He described the actions of those responsible as “absolutely reckless.”
“We believe the van was on the way to one of the police stations in the city and the intended target was police officers. I have no doubt that the capability of those devices would have resulted in mass casualties, potentially mass murder.
“I have no doubt that from the type of these devices - home made devices - there is no easy way of knowing if they would have hit their target so therefore it could have been indiscriminate.
“The city’s police bases are in built-up areas so not only were they recklessly putting the lives of police officers at risk but they were also putting the lives of the whole community at risk,” he said.
CS Cargin also said the two men arrested at the scene were the driver of the van and the rider of motorbike which was following close behind. A third man was arrested during a follow-up operation.
The police chief blamed dissident republicans for the incidents. “These people are absolutely reckless. They were prepared to drive a van with four live mortar bombs ready to go through a built-up area of Derry city, putting the lives of thousands of people at risk. It does not bear thinking about what could have happened,” he said.
CS Cargin refused to be drawn on claims that Sunday night’s police operation was inteligence-led, describing it as part of an “ongoing proactive operation against dissident republicans.”